Advanced Television

DoJ backs networks in Supreme Court case

March 4, 2014

By Colin Mann

The US Department of Justice has come out in support of the major TV networks in their forthcoming Supreme Court case against Internet TV streaming service Aereo. In a brief filed with Court March 3rd, the DoJ contends that Aereo is “clearly infringing” on the copyrights of the major broadcasters by picking up their free, over-the-air TV signals and streaming them over the Internet.

According to the brief, Aereo “transmits copyrighted broadcast programs to the public, without the authorization of the copyright holders, and is therefore liable for infringement.

Industry trade group The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), welcomed the intervention. “NAB is pleased that the Solicitor General — who represents the U.S. Government before the Supreme Court — agrees with broadcasters that Aereo is violating copyright law,” NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton said in a statement. “We look forward to oral arguments and a final decision in the case, and we’re hopeful that Aereo will be declared a copyright infringer.”

The NAB and broadcast network affiliate associations also filed an amicus (Friend of Court) brief with the Supreme Court in support of declaring Aereo a copyright infringer. According to the brief:

“Aereo’s wasteful free-riding stands in marked contrast to the genuine innovation being achieved within the framework of the law by services like Netflix and Hulu, as well as by broadcasters themselves. Reaffirming the role of copyright protection for free, over-the-air broadcasting will not harm innovation, which is already happening under Congress’s carefully calibrated legal regime. It is Aereo’s scheme that represents a step backward, both as a matter of law and technology.”


In a related development, the Supreme Court has rejected FilmOn X’s request to join the Aereo case. The decision means that FilmOn won’t be able to offer its own comments during oral argument in Aereo’s case and will have to make any arguments in friend of the court briefs.


FilmOn had sought permission to intervene, arguing that any Aereo decision could have significant impacts on its business model.

“At this time FilmOn X is without an appellate remedy [and] is forced to rely on Aereo—a business competitor with economic incentive to leave the injunctions against FilmOn X undisturbed—to represent FilmOn X’s interests before this court,” FilmOn told the court in its request.

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